Sixteen U.S Marines were taken into custody Thursday morning for alleged illegal activity ranging from human trafficking to drug trafficking, a spokesperson for the Marines announced. The suspects’ ranks range from private first class to corporal, or E-2 to E-4. This comes after two Marines were arrested for smuggling illegal immigrants over the border on July 3.
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The 16 Marines were arrested at Camp Pendleton in California during battalion formation, the New York Post reported. Marine spokesperson, 1st Lt. Cameron Edinburgh, explained: “It was a public display for the entire unit to see,” he said.
According to USA Today, eight other Marines were questioned about suspected involvement in an unrelated drug case as well. It was not reported whether those men were arrested.
“Information gained from a previous human smuggling investigation precipitated the arrests,” a statement released by the Marine Corps said. “None of the Marines arrested or detained for questioning served in support of the Southwest Border Support mission.”
The arrests were carried out by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service with the names of those arrested yet to be released.
This shocking news comes weeks after two Marines, Lance Cpl. Byron Darnell Law II and Lance Cpl. David Javier Salazar-Quintero, were pulled over by Border Patrol agents with three illegal immigrants in their backseat on July 3. They were transporting the men for financial gain.
That arrest took place about 50 miles outside of San Diego, California. The two Marines blamed each other, and that investigation led authorities to the 16 other Marines who were arrested early Thursday morning, CBS News reported.
Both Marines face one felony count of transporting illegal immigrants into the United States for financial gain. The two met a contact at some point and were offered $8,000 to transport illegal immigrants to a pre-determined destination.
Law and Salazar-Quintero came from the same unit as the other 16 Marines who were just arrested.
“1st Marine Division is committed to justice and the rule of law, and we will continue to fully cooperate with NCIS on this matter,” a statement explained. “Any Marines found to be in connection with these alleged activities will be questioned and handled accordingly with respect to due process.”